Opinion

Eddie Jones hanging on by a thread

As you may recall, at the start of the Six Nations, I tipped France to win the Grand Slam.

In Paris, last Saturday evening, they completely outplayed England and etched their name into rugby history.

It wasn’t their best performance of the Championships but France proved they could win the big games carrying the tag of favourites.

Many teams have stuttered with a Grand Slam on the line but not this French team.

Make no mistake, France are on a mission with a home World Cup in 2023.

There is no doubt this French team will be major contenders; indeed, even this far out, they are my tip to win the title.

Whilst Fabien Galthie is the pride of France, England’s coach, Eddie Jones, is rightly under fire.

For the second year in a row, his team has only managed to win two of their five Test Matches in the Championship.

What is even more concerning is that, in five matches, England scored eight tries, Ireland scored 24, France scored 17, Scotland scored 11. And while there were 12 tries against, France had only seven, Ireland only four, even Wales, eight.

With a massive rugby population, brimming with talent, well may English supporters be alarmed.

The English media have turned on Jones with Stuart Barnes and Stephen Jones, of the Times newspaper, calling for his head.

In response, the Rugby Football Union have backed the coach with the questionable observation that the team had shown “considerable improvement”.

Former England captains, Lawrence Dallaglio and Lewis Moody, along with the 2003 World Cup winning coach, Clive Woodward, have called out the Rugby Football Union. They say there has been no improvement in the team and it is “dishonest” to say otherwise.

Clearly, it is not ideal to be changing coaches one year out from a World Cup, but Eddie Jones will be lucky to survive back to back failed Six Nations’ campaigns.

Nor does he deserve to; but if he manages to survive the current media barrage, he will lead England on a three Test Match series against the Wallabies in July.

Much will ride on that Test series, for both nations.

Should England fail in Australia, and I must confess that is unlikely, it is hard to see how Jones will survive.

Which brings me to the Wallabies.

They have recently announced their first squad for 2022.

Why on earth you need 40 players, I have no idea; but how, in the straightened means confronting Rugby Australia do we afford to have all these players, along with the blazer brigade in a camp in Queensland?

On the plus side, it is good to see some young guns like Ben Donaldson gain recognition for their efforts in Super Rugby; however, to me, the exclusion of the Waratahs’ in-form number eight, Will Harris, is astounding.

Based on 2022 performances, Harris is easily the best number eight in the country, but he can’t make the top 40.

The Australian coach must understand that if players are not rewarded for their form, they will be tempted to look abroad.

If players feel the Wallabies are a closed shop for them, they can earn more money in Japan or France.

To the local scene, the Brumbies verse Reds clash was another fine contest between the two Australian heavyweight provincial teams. And, it must be said, Queensland had an opportunity to win the match in the dying moments.

Unfortunately, there were too many errors in the game for my liking but, at the end, Queensland ran a beautiful strike play from a scrum on the Brumbies’ line but a miss-timed pass cost them victory.

Unfortunately, during the match, the world class tighthead, Taniela Tupou, made a clean out that was absolutely “textbook”.

The match officials were happy with it and so were the players on the pitch.

But some over officious nerd sitting in an office at SANZAAR tried to have Tupou sanctioned for being too powerful.

His technique was perfect, shoulder on shoulder. To anyone who knows anything about rugby, he had no case to answer.

Clearly, we want players to be safe and we all know concussion is an issue; but we also know that rugby is a contact sport and there will be injuries.

Our rugby administrators are completely overreacting on the issue of player safety much the same way our politicians have overreacted on the issue of coronavirus.

Thankfully, the Reds’ defence of the Tupou cleanout was successful so Taniela won’t be rubbed out of the weekend match against the Waratahs or the return match against the Brumbies the following week.

But it was a joke in the first place.

The best tighthead prop in the world, hauled before a “kangaroo court” by faceless rugby bureaucrats, who should be reminded that Taniela Tupou puts bums on seats and that helps pay for these SANZAAR nerds.

Bravo to the Reds’ organisation for taking on SANZAAR.

For my money, they are a waste of space and resources.

And while on the issue of resources, there is no good news from Rugby Australia for the grassroots.

I felt privileged to address two club rugby functions in two weeks – one at the splendidly renovated Wests Rugby Club in Brisbane, to a packed house, all dedicated club stalwarts.

A $15 million rehabilitation of the club done by dedicated lovers of the game and committed to what club rugby does for individuals, families and rugby itself.

The blazer brigade offer no recognition to such rugby worth.

Then, last Friday, a magnificent fundraising luncheon for the Southern Districts Rugby Club in Sydney – a packed house of over 700 diehard supporters of the club. They were rallying, paying and rollicking in support of their club, and they do it every year.

I was delighted, and so were they, to remind them that this wonderful gathering of club supporters, in both cities, have no say in the administration of the game.

I reminded them of the urgent need to democratise the game by creating paid membership of Rugby Australia, raising much needed millions and, in return, but importantly, giving the die-hard rugby paid-up member a vote in who runs the game. Of course, this is the last thing the blazer brigade want because the rank and file would vote to tip them all out.

Club rugby is in great shape without any support from Head Office; but, I suspect, the leadership of Australian rugby won’t forever be able to resist the rising tide amongst the rank and file to have a say in who runs the game and how the game is run.

The democratisation of Australian rugby is long overdue.

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